PHP was originated by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994. He called it Personal Home Page Tools and created it to maintain his personal home page. He announced the release of PHP Tools Version 1.0 in June of 1995. A development team formed and released Version 2.0 in November of 1997. Version 3 came along in June of 1998. Zeev Suraski and Andi Gulmans had taken over development in 1997, and in 1999 had rewritten PHP’s core creating the Zend Engine. They also founded Zend Technologies in Israel. In May of 2000 PHP 4.0 was released powered by Zend Engine 1.0. Version 5.0 was released in July 2004 and is now up to version 5.4 with development continuing.
Okay, interesting history but what is PHP? Wikipedia introduces it as “…an open-source server-side scripting language designed for Web development to produce dynamic Web pages.” Let’s look at that: “open source” – basically free; “server side” – is installed on the server, not your computer; “scripting language designed for web development” – self evident, right?; to “produce dynamic Web pages” – allows your web page to produce different information at different times, based on criteria you set up. So, using PHP, your static web page can show visitors something different every time they come to your page. How? Well, it’s a little technical, but if you understand a little HTML I’d suggest reading the Kindle eBook “The Joy of PHP” by Alan Forbes, where he describes some intro uses of PHP with examples.
How important is it to learn PHP? Not very… or vitally, depending on your point of view. Some of us who are ignorant are content to remain that way. But the more I see and learn about web development, the more important I see that PHP is. One factor is that WordPress, the fastest and easiest way to produce professional looking websites, is written in PHP. So, if you want to make your WordPress website unique, you could modify it using PHP – which is allowable since WordPress is open-source software.
The best way to learn PHP? My suggestion is a google search for “PHP Tutorials” – you’ll find a ton of them, including some on You Tube for those of you who learn better visually. A good tutorial and a good reference book or two and that should do it.